Top priorities for Shropshire health watchdog announced

The Future Fit hospitals shake-up, access to GP services and the impact of Covid on mental health will become top priorities for a Shropshire health watchdog this year, it has revealed.

Healthwatch Shropshire played a vital role during the past year in keeping the public updated about the pandemic and the constant changes during the early days and weeks of the coronavirus vaccination programme.

The charity, which gathers views on health and social care services, recently published its annual report for 2020-21.

Its chairwoman Vanessa Barrett said the group had to make radical changes to the way it worked during the pandemic, but the team "rose to the challenge enthusiastically".

Based on information gathered through surveys and online focus groups, it published reports covering a range of issues including the impact of lockdown on access to services and general wellbeing; families’ experiences of end of life and palliative care of a loved one; and mothers’ experiences of mental health services during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life.

In October it published a report on what people had told the group about the ways the changes in making appointments with GPs and hospitals to phone, video and online appointments had affected them.

Throughout the last year it made 40 recommendations for improvement to services.

The annual report highlights the positive difference the information made in helping providers to improve services, including the Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust that based the development of its new model for maternal mental health hubs on information provided by Healthwatch Shropshire.

Work has also been carried out on social prescribing for 16-25-year-olds, hospital discharge during the pandemic and a digital audit of care homes websites.

The annual report says in 2021-22 the charity will have four top priorities.

They include mental health affecting all age groups, including the impact of the pandemic on general mental wellbeing.

Access to primary care, dentistry and out of hospital services will also be put under the spotlight, together with acute care including the Future Fit plans and proposals to shake-up maternity care in the county.

The Future Fit plans will see emergency and planned care separated at the county's main two hospitals.

The final priority will be to look at health inequalities and promoting public involvement in service development and design.

Ms Barrett added: "We are often the only organisation with the ‘long term memory’ and able to take a ‘bird’s eye’ view of the issues affecting different parts of the county.

"We look forward to continuing our work through engaging more with the public face to face, but building on what we have learned during the last difficult year."

Lynn Cawley, chief officer of Healthwatch Shropshire, added: “We’d like to thank everyone who is helping us put people at the heart of health and social care, including members of the public who shared their stories with us; our amazing staff and volunteers; local voluntary organisations that have contributed to our work; and the providers for listening to the public voice.”

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